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Old San Juan Home: 500 Years of History — Inspiration and Getting Started

Stewart-Rodriguez is renovating a 500-year-old home in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. On the historic registry, projects such as these can be equally inspirational and challenging.

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Historic Home Interior Design Fernando Rodriguez
Fernando Rodriguez and his team were mesmerized by the history of their most recent design project in Old San Juan.

Editor's Note: Stewart-Rodriguez is renovating a 500-year-old home in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. On the historic registry, projects such as these can be equally inspirational and challenging. This project is just about wrapped up, but here Fernando Rodriguez talks about first seeing the home and being inspired to design. Follow along as he takes this project from inspiration to completion.

fernando rodriguez historic home design old san juan

It was a sunny morning in Old San Juan. For a project of this magnitude we always do first site visits as a team.  It’s a fun road trip that everyone looks forward to. It sets the tone for creating a sense of unity and commitment to the project. Communication between departments is critical to the success of any project.  

At this historic home, big heavy wood doors with beautiful vintage hardware and iron framed windows welcome you inside. Just as we opened the massive solid doors, all senses were awakened. You could feel the air ventilation of the open inside courtyard. Our minds were moving in all directions, unable to focus on just one thing. The whole team gasp as we looked at each other like kids in a candy store. This was going to be fun. 

historic home remodel fernando rodriguez old san juan

We started opening every door and window in each room. As the house had been closed for a while, the humidity and water problems in the ceiling gave the house a funny smell.  We had seen pictures of this home before when it was furnished. But looking at it unfurnished with no art on the walls gave the spaces a different kind of beauty that we hadn’t been prepared for.   

As I took my time through each room, taking notes and pictures,  it became clear to me that this journey was going to be a unique experience and that I was going to enjoy every second!  

We spent hours studying the light from the morning sun that poured in through the clear glass pane windows reflected on the gorgeous Italian black and white checked marble floors.  You could feel the energy trapped through the years; I kept wishing that the walls would tell me secrets from another time; this house has so much history.

When we left for the day, I already knew what we had to do. My instincts kicked in, and I could feel the direction we needed to follow.  This renovation would be like no other. Usually you want to change things around, make rooms bigger, start with a zero-base line. For this property, it was just the opposite. A landmark building with so much cultural heritage, I felt that the direction was going to be to preserve as much as possible. It required us to do our homework and research as much as possible – from the way people lived 450 years ago to the last owners.

historic home design inspiration, fernando rodriguez, old san juan

Fernando Rodriguez
Fernando Rodriguez of Stewart Rodriguez and ASH Home

Fernando Rodriguez splits his time between New York and Puerto Rico, where he and his partner, Aaron Stewart, own a thriving design business and home retail store, Stewart and Rodriguez.

With a background of work with world-renowned brands including Martha Stewart, Tory Burch, SFERRA, Hickey Freeman, and Joseph Abboud, Fernando Rodriguez and Aaron Stewart opened high-end home retail store, Aaron Stewart Home (ASH) in Puerto Rico in 2013. The brand won multiple recognitions and awards, including the ARTS Awards for Best International Retailer in both 2016 and 2017.

The brand also developed a consulting arm. In 2015, Caribbean Property Group chose ASH to brand and design the high-end residential development Bahia Plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The project involved the creation of a fitness center, resident's lounge, lobby and concierge space, pool area, and nine model units.

Stewart Rodriguez, LLC - an entity related to ASH - has offices in both Puerto Rico and New York, and has a broad portfolio across the home, commercial and hospitality industries, with projects of all sizes. Their impressive roster of clients includes Dorado Beach, Ritz-Carlton Reserve and El San Juan Hotel.

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